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We propose a robust approach to discriminant kernel-based feature extraction for face recognition and verification. We show, for the first time, how to perform the eigen analysis of the within-class scatter matrix directly in the feature space. This eigen analysis provides the eigenspectrum of its range space and the corresponding eigenvectors as well as the eigenvectors spanning its null space. Based on our analysis, we propose a kernel discriminant analysis (KDA) which combines eigenspectrum regularization with a feature-level scheme (ER-KDA). Finally, we combine the proposed ER-KDA with a nonlinear robust kernel particularly suitable for face recognition/verification applications which require robustness against outliers caused by occlusions and illumination changes. We applied the proposed framework to several popular databases (Yale, AR, XM2VTS) and achieved state-of-the-art performance for most of our experiments.